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Discover Alpinism

Course Overview

A perfect introduction to Alpine mountaineering. This five day course is for those who wish to transfer their mountaineering skills to an Alpine environment. Learn the techniques, get a taste of the sights and scale of the Alps, and reap the rewards.
Through the five days we will introduce you to the special aspects of alpine mountaineering. Moving on snow and ice, travelling on glaciers and ridges, alpine rope work, and crevasse rescue. We will then make full use of your new found Alpine skills on the majestic peaks of the area.
This course is for you if you want an all round Alpine apprenticeship where you'd really like to go off and do it yourself, but would like to learn the basic skills (and all those little top-tips) first. This course will pack years of experience into just five days, to help launch your own career of safe and enjoyable Alpinism.

Experience Required

Some winter hillwalking

Scheduled Dates

Detailed Course Notes

You should be 18 years old to attend this course.

Is it for me?
You'll need good 'hill fitness' for five consecutive mountain days.  You should have some winter hillwalking experience, and some time spent scrambling or rock climbing would be beneficial.  A sense of humour to cope with getting up at four in the morning could be regarded an essential!

The Venue

We shall be based in the famous alpine village of Argentiere in the Chamonix Valley. This is an excellent locationwith a wide variety of Alpine terrain, giving unparalleled opportunities from relatively low altitude rock peaks to the high remote glaciated peaks.

What We Cover
Over the last 50 years of running Alpine courses we\'ve recognised essential skills to mountaineer more safely. The course therefore includes: 

  • Coaching movement skills on snow & ice

  • Glacier Travel

  • Crevasse Rescue

  • Moving together

  • Route Choice + Planning

  • Using Alpine Huts

The programme will remain flexible throughout the course in order to accommodate weather and mountain conditions. What is achieved is always dependent on these factors, but will be appropriate to your aspirations and fitness. The overall aim is to give you an enjoyable introduction to Alpinism, that leaves you able to complete your own Alpine adventures in the future. Of course, many of our students choose to follow this week with an Alpine Giants course  to take things one step further!

All our staff are qualified, or aspirant IFMGA Guides.

Meeting up

You should plan on arriving in Argentiere by 7pm on the evening before your course begins. The course director will then arrange a brief get-together at Yeti Lodge apartments. You will find a notice on the apartment entrance, with details of how to contact a member of PyB staff, should you require. In case of any problems (with transport, etc) you can always phone the main office in Wales.


Alpine climbing often involves very long and arduous days. Plenty of long hill days preferably with some scrambling prior to the course will be more beneficial than rock climbing to a higher grade.(For a real taste of the Alps, practice getting up in the middle of the night and walking with a thirsty headache!)


The cost of travel to the Alps is not included in the course fees.  You should plan on arriving in Argentiere by 7pm on the evening before your course begins, for a brief get-together with staff.

There are a number of different ways to get to Argentiere.

  • One option is to fly to Geneva and to get a transfer to Argentiere. If you book a tranfer with Mountain Drop-offs and enter the promo code yeti you'll get a discount on your booking.

  • Another possibility is to travel by train.  It is possible to get from London Waterloo to Chamonix/Argentiere, changing in Paris, in around 9 hours - provided you make all the connections!  All enquiries should be made through Rail Europe or try National Rail Enquiries or Swiss Trains.

  • The third option is to travel by car.  This is by far the cheapest option if you are able to fill the car. The route is pretty straightforward if you travel on motorways.  Remember that Belgian and German motorways are free, Swiss motorways require a carnet (40Sf) and French motorways have tolls.

  • The final option is to travel by bus from the UK.  All inquiries should be made through Eurolines (01582 404511).

Whilst you are on the course Plas y Brenin will provide transport for local journeys necessary to the running of the course.

The Accommodation

The course fee includes shared self catering apartments in Argentiere, from the night before the course starts until the last night of the course inclusive. We will also make use of, and cover the cost of, two or three nights in mountain huts.

The Catering

Whilst in the valley, the course will be based in self catering apartments. This should help you keep the costs down if you wish, as all course participants are expected to make their own eating arrangements.  There are supermarkets and bakeries in Argentiere where you can buy anything you are likely to need. You can also eat out in local restaurants. It is difficult to say exactly what to budget for food over the whole period of the course - much depends on individual tastes.  If you work on around ‹15 per day for self-catering you won't be far out.

Whenever we stay in mountain huts, we will enjoy the excellent, but fixed, French/Swiss menu as provided in a half board (bed, breakfast, and evening meal) package.


Hut nights (half board) are included in the course fees. Each time you stay in a hut you will be expected to take the hut meal.  Lunches and drinks can be expensive in huts as they are brought from the valley by helicopter! To keep the costs down, you can always bring along some tea bags, coffee, drinking chocolate etc, so that you can just buy hot water for brews.  You will need to pay for all your lunches and drinks, throughout the course, so most people carry lunch provisions with them.


Any accident in the Alps can be an extremely costly business. It is essential that you take out proper mountaineering insurance that covers you for mountain rescue and medical expenses. Those policies can be obtained through the BMC, Snowcard and specialist insurers who all advertise in the mountaineering press. We also recommend that you take out normal travel insurance that includes cancellation cover.

It is important that you buy insurance before leaving the UK, no insurance means you will not be able to take part in the course.

BMC Insurance (08700 104878) - Their Alpine/Ski insurance is suitable

Snowcard (01397 262805) - Their Alpinist insurance is suitable

Although the courses are taking place in France/Switzerland, it will be worth obtaining European Health Insurance Card, which covers the whole of Europe and Switzerland. Not only is it now accepted in Switzerland, it is actively welcomed.

All evidence of insurance must be carried with you in the mountains and will be checked at the start of the course by the guides.


Argentiere is a short walk from Yeti Lodge where there is a cash point and banks, but plan to have some cash to cover you for the first few days. If you are planning on flying it is worth having some Swiss franc with you as well, however there is a number of cash points in the Airport.

Useful Books

  • Alpine Mountaineering - Bruce Goodlad
  • Handbook of Climbing - Fyffe and Peter
  • Winter Skills - Fyffe and Cunningham (official MLTUK publication)
  • Extreme Alpinism - Mark Twight
  • Scotland's Winter Mountains - Martin Moran (for its technical section)
  • High Mountains of The Alps - H. Dumler and W. Burkhardt
  • See the excellent Alpine Essentials DVD from the BMC and MCofS*

What's Included In The Price?

Whether you choose to stay with us or you have alternative accommodation nearby, the following items are included in the total cost.

    Equipment hire
    Mountain huts fees included
    All uplift fees included

    If you choose to stay with us, these items are also included in the total cost:

    Accommodation the night before your course
    Accommodation during your course
    Accommodation the night after your course ends

Accommodation For This Course

Yeti Lodge Apartments

Your course is self catering and is based in Yeti Lodge apartments in Argentiere. The accommodation is in shared rooms.

The course fee includes instruction, self catering accommodation and equipment loan, all you need to pay for are meals and drinks. During the course you may stay in a mountain hut with half board (breakfast and dinner), this cost is also included in the course fee.

The apartments have all the usual facilities for you to cook your own meals, a relaxing lounge area with UK Satellite TV, free WiFi, private car parking and shared hot tub and sauna. The centre of Argentiere is only a five minute walk where there are plenty of shops, bakeries, supermarkets and great restaurants, cafes and bars. Rather than cook for yourself you can arrange to have a three course dinner at Yeti Lodge for €25 per day or if you would like continental breakfast and three course dinner its €30 per day. You can book this when you arrive at Yeti Lodge.

Linen is provided in the apartment but you will need a sleeping bag liner for the mountain huts.

Yeti Lodge can offer additional nights accommodation before and after your course if you would like to extend your holiday for €60 per night B&B (based on two sharing) or €85 per night half board (based on two sharing).

If you would like to pre-book meals or arrange for any extra nights at Yeti Lodge, please email on info@yetilodgechaletschamonix.com or call + 44 781 801 8700.

follow this link for more details

What Equipment Do You Need To Bring?


(to cope with hot sun on glaciers, as well as cold snowy conditions):

  • Thermal tops

  • Light trousers

  • Fleece tops

  • Good quality socks (lots of)

  • Waterproof Jacket and Trousers*

  • Gaiters*

  • Gloves and a spare set

  • Warm Hat

  • Sun hat

  • Mountaineering boots*

  • Rock shoes*

Mountaineering kit

  • Crampons + anti-balling plates*

  • Ice axe*

  • Ice hammer*

  • Helmet*

  • Harness*

  • Belay device*

  • 4 Screw gate karabiners*

  • 2 Snap link karabiners*

  • 1 x 8ft sling (120cm)*

  • 2 prussic loops*

  • 1 ice screw (if you have one)

  • Pulley & Wild country Ropeman (useful)


  • Head torch (spare batteries)

  • Compass (Silva Expedition 4 recommended)

  • Maps (Chamonix, Massif Du Mont Blanc - 3630 OT)

  • Good Quality Sun Glasses - Cat 4

  • Sun Cream/Lip Salve (Factor 30+)

  • Water Bottle (at least 1 litre)

  • Camera

  • Blister kit/small first aid kit

  • Lunch snacks & emergency food

  • European Health Insurance Card

  • Passport

  • Copy of insurance

  • Reciprocal Rights Card (if you have one)

  • 40-50 ltr rucksack with axe attachments (to put it all in)*

  • Towel

*These items are available to loan, please ensure if you would like to loan any of these items you return your equipment loan form to us. Download your equipment loan form here.

Customer Reviews For This Course

An excellent course

Cath Coey

I have just recently returned from the Discover Alpinism course based in Arolla. We thoroughly enjoyed the course and would highly recommend it to anyone who wanted to learn how to go that little bit higher in the Alps.The course was really well planned and delivered and I think everyone left feeling that they had learnt a lot, regardless of their previous experience.The scenery was stunning particularly on the last day when we climbed Pigne D'Arolla-definately the highlight of the trip.The huts that we stayed in were really good: they had picked the creme de la creme in terms of huts I think so now we are spoilt!The instructors Rob and Simon were very knowledgable and helpful as well as being very entertaining. They managed to teach us a lot while still remembering we were on holiday. I look forward to the next alpine adventure!

A Fantastic Experience

Andy Rickard

This course was everything I wished for and more!
Arolla was an ideal choice as a base. At 2000m the all important acclimatisation occured with an easy first day walking up the valley to the arolla glacier for crevasse rescue techniques and alpine rope work.

The skill and knowledge of the instructors was evident at all times, with plenty of encouragement given to everyone, whatever their abilities and experience. In particular, the way in which the plans for the week were modified to make the most of the weather conditions was impressive.

During the week we were introduced to the 'mountain hut experience', and summited two impressive peaks at around 3,500m which was extremely satisfying for someone like myself, on a first visit to the mountains of the Alps.

I would recommend this course to anyone who is keen to progress to the Alps from the mountains of the UK. (I did find the Scottish Winter Mountaineering course a very useful stepping stone.) Also, I was not the only person on the course in my late 50's! So don't let age stop you from applying.

The following week I completed the Alpine Giants course which I can also highly recommend for the same reasons as that given above.

Heartily recommend it !

David and Clare

This course gives you a good grounding in the basics. The guides were really friendly and keen to share their knowledge. Any question was answered with a clear explanation or demonstration.
The course itinerary enabled us to acclimatise while giving us plenty to do - crevasse rescue on the first day and then some ridge climbing on the way to one of the alpine huts. By day 3 we reached our first summit!
We thought the guides struck a good balance between allowing us to try things out and taking care of our safety, at times in very challenging weather conditions.
On completion of the 5 day course we felt confident enough to have a go at a few easy peaks. We're now completely hooked and already thinking of the next trip to the Alps.

An instructive, challenging and enjoyable week


As a novice, the course was a great introduction to the principles and practice of Alpinism. The first day was a relatively gentle but comprehensive session on basic skills. We learned about the steady and sustained ..Alpine pace., movement on glaciers with crampons and the use of ropes and other equipment for safety and crevasse rescue.

There were two ..expeditions. to local peaks. Ability and confidence improved over the week as the lessons of the first day were applied and expanded on during these journeys. We also learned about the importance of adapting plans to rapidly changing weather conditions that ranged from blazing sun in the valley to horizontal hail higher up. Two nights were spent in huts, so we were able to experience hut life and etiquette.

The peaks we climbed were ..easy. on the Alpine scale, but quite challenging enough and just right for the overall level of the group. I think even the more athletic members felt a great sense of achievement when we reached the summits and looked at the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us. The feeling was literally that of being on top of the world.

Throughout the trip we received detailed and careful instruction from John and Phil and the priorities were clear at all stages. As we were involved in a risky activity, the content was serious, but all was done in a fun and relaxed manner. What was imparted included not only mountaineering skills but also appreciation of the natural environment. Phil, in particular, had an amazing affinity with the Alpine marmot.

I felt the course provided a solid preparation for independent ventures at the appropriate level or for getting the most out of guided trips in the Alps. We all learned a lot, but there was also the sense of being on holiday, making for an instructive, challenging and enjoyable week.

Discover Alpinism,

David Harries

Overall, an excellent course.
Beautiful location, reasonable accommodation, competent guides/instructors, a good range of activities. I learned a great deal. Particulalry, useful was the work on glacier safety (crevasse rescue, moving together).
Tough ascents but very rewarding and beautiful views when we got above the cloud. The white-out was fun too and it was good to be pushed.
One small criticism.. on the final day it had been suggested that we should be left to get on with it, but the lead instructor, who was a little "head-masterly", seemed reluctant to let go of the reins. I felt there was more room for encouraging independence.

Tip for future groups; take several light-coloured base layers with long sleeves. It can get quite hot on a glacier - you need long sleeves for a bit of arm protection but avoid black/dark colours. I was cooking in the sun!
Thanks for a great trip. Excellent value for money!

Not something you'll ever regret doing


Having been on this course in July 2009, I have no hesitation in highly recommending it for anyone who wants to find out if Alpinism is for them or who has already been out in the mountains a few times but who wants to learn how to do things for themselves, rather than rely on more experienced climbing partners or guides. In short, it..s an excellent, detailed, enjoyable and practical introduction.

Our group learnt an enormous amount over five days in a relaxed and informal atmosphere, from basic skills such as glacier walking in crampons through to crevasse rescue, the use of ice-axes as anchors and how to dig snow bollards, as well as how to move efficiently and quickly in an Alpine environment, how to read the topography around us and how to ensure that we were best prepared to adapt to the challenges involved in mountaineering in the Alps.

The course was not just about learning techniques and drills .. it was also about encouraging confidence, independence of thought and rational decision making, and the whole week was about ..learning by doing. .. we emerged as a competent group of people ready to go out into the Alps without ..supervision. and indeed, many of us did exactly that the weekend after the course ended.

Overall, the course was very well organised and administered and our instructors, Phil Dowthwaite and John Cousins, were hugely experienced and extremely enthusiastic - they went out of their way to impart as much of their knowledge as they could across the five day period and took genuine interest in seeing us all learning and developing our skills. Many thanks to the Plas y Brenin team for an excellent week.



I had a fantastic week in Arolla, learning the essentials as an aspiring alpinist, with a great group of people. We learnt so much and all felt able to take our first steps into the mountains ourselves afterwards. You'll get loads out of this course if you are looking to gain experience in the alpine environment and already have some experience in the hills or with rock climbing. Our instructors were Stu, Tim and Paul, they were fantastic guys, really knowledgable and experienced, as well as making the trip really relaxed and a lot of fun. Once more, PYB has surpassed all expectations, thank-you!


Pretty near faultless I think.


An informative and well run course. I would recommend it to anyone with a wish to learn the fundamentals of alpinism.

I would say that those people that had some climbing experience and a genuine interest in the mountains probably got more out of the course than those that didn..t. The instructors were highly qualified and if you asked a question then you got clear comprehensive explanations. Its really a case of, if you want to learn the information's there, so make the most of it.

Being the only female in my group I felt the instructors treated me equally and without bias and i would recommend this course to any other strong lasses with an interest in moving into alpinism.

Great Course

Duncan Carter

Good grounding in Alpine basics.

While the alpine experience of all the PYB instructors is excellent and they are all very knowledgeable in matters Alpine, the ability of some instructors to impart this information and communicate successfully is less comprehensive.

Female group member did seem to receive a disproportionate amount of instructor time, making some male group members feel slightly short changed.

However, these minor gripes did not mar an excellent week and i would recommend this course as being an excellent introduction to Alpinism and good value for money.

Not found what you were looking for?

You can hire one of our coaches instructors or guides from only £250 per day. They'll tailor the day to suit your aims and aspirations perfectly.
You can enjoy one to one coaching for that cost or if you get together as a group, depending on the activity, you can split that cost between up to 6 of you. If you are a group we can run any of our courses on a date that suits you and your friends. Or you could just write your own agenda for a week or weekend and we'll price it up for you - with or without accommodation. What's more, just like out normal course fees, our private instructor hire charge covers all your equipment too. Click on the link below to fill in a request form and one of our coaches will call you back (or e-mail if you'd prefer) to discuss things in detail with you.

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